How To File A Police Report For Identity TheftRead how to file a police report for identity theft, prevent identity fraud, and identify the warning signs.
Our content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our and how we make money.
Identity Theft Is on the Rise
Every year, 15 million people in the U.S. become victims of identity theft.
This is only one of many scary statistics about ID fraud.
Another concern is that more and more children fall victim to this crime.
Identity theft can cause financial losses, impact your credit score, and taint your personal record.
So, what can we do to protect our identities from identity thieves?
ID fraud is often only detected after it has already happened, which is why it’s best to plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.
In this article, we help you discover more about the different types of ID fraud.
We will delve deeper into the subject and provide tips on:
How to recognize the warning signs of ID theft.
How to report it to the police.
What preventative steps can you take.
What to do to recover from this type of crime.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information for criminal or fraudulent activities.
Fraudsters often use the following information:
Personal information—such as your name and address.
Social Security number.
Credit card number.
Social media accounts.
Identity thieves can use this information to commit various crimes that can devastate your credit score and financial health.
Examples of fraud that can be committed with a stolen identity:
Removing money from your bank account.
Opening accounts in your name.
Committing loan fraud.
Stealing medical benefits, also known as medical identity theft.
Access your retirement accounts.
Worse, people often only find out about the crime once the damage has already been done.
Types of Identity Theft
ID theft happens in many ways, so here is a list of some of the most common types of ID theft.
Loan fraud is when criminals illegally use your personal information to get a loan.
For example, criminals will use your information to sign up for a credit card, or take out a home or student loan. Identity thieves only need your Social Security number (SSN) or bank account number to do this.
Committing a crime in another person’s name happens when real criminals give authorities someone else’s name and address during an arrest or investigation. Criminals usually use false documents, such as a fake driver’s license.
Child identity theft is when criminals steal a child’s identity and apply for credit in the child’s name. You might only discover this when your child applies for college, other loans, or credit.
Creating fake identities is also referred to as Frankenstein IDs or Synthetic ID fraud. Criminals use the information of a few people to create a fake identity.
Criminals will use a Social Security number and combine it with a name and address. They will then apply for loans and credit cards, often making payments for years as the credit limits grow.
Terms you need to know -
Synthetic identity theft is when fraudsters use some real information, such as someone’s Social Security number, date of birth, banking details, address, and so on, along with fake information.
For example, the synthetic identity created may be someone’s actual Social Security number, but the name and date of birth do not match any specific person.
Identity thieves use synthetic identities because it makes it more difficult for the authorities to catch them.
Medical identity theft is when someone else uses your identity to access your healthcare benefits. This is dangerous as your medical history, and that of the fraudster, are seen as one person’s medical history.
This gives doctors and hospitals the wrong information when they have to make healthcare decisions about you.
Locked online accounts happen when they use your information to hack your financial accounts. Once hackers gain access, they change your information to lock you out of your own accounts.
Taxpayer identity theft happens when criminals use your Social Security number to file a tax return, and steal your tax refund or tax credit.
Passport fraud is when someone else uses your passport to travel abroad. If successful, these criminals might continue to commit crimes in your name once they’ve arrived overseas.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
Below is a summary of some of the most common ways identity theft happens:
Stolen or lost wallets or purses may give someone else access to your information, depending on what information you keep in it. A way to prevent this is to not keep passwords or your Social Security card in your wallet.
Carding is when criminals use credit cards to buy prepaid gift cards. First, they do a small transaction to see if the card is active, and then they use your details to buy multiple gift cards from places like Amazon or Walmart.
Scammers will then use the gift cards to buy or sell items for cash, because gift and prepaid cards are untraceable.
Keep your credit card/s safe and don’t carry them with you if it isn’t necessary.
Report missing, lost, or stolen credit cards immediately.
Mail fraud happens when someone takes your mail or completes a form to forward your mail to a different address. If you suspect mail fraud, report it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
One way you can try to prevent mail fraud is to:
Sign up for USPS Informed Delivery which emails you images of the items that should be delivered to you, so you’ll know if things are missing.
Use a secure mailbox and collect your mail.
Unsecure Wi-Fi, like free public Wi-Fi, allows hackers to track your online activities. Don’t use unsecured or public Wi-Fi when you do sensitive transactions like online banking.
Hacking into databases allows criminals to access people’s private information on databases.
To prevent this:
Check your credit score often—an unexpected change can be a clue.
Read financial and insurance statements and monitor credit reports.
SIM card swapping happens when someone takes over your phone number. You may stop getting calls and texts, or you may get a notification that your phone has been deactivated.
To prevent this:
Always use a PIN or password for your cell phone.
Use an authentication app for accounts with sensitive financial information. This app generates security codes for accounts or sites that need a high level of security.
Phishing is when criminals try to get you to share personal information, such as your credit card, Social Security number, and banking information.
They try to get this information by sending you an official-looking email that appears to be from, for example, your bank.
Spoofing is similar, except instead of sending an email, they phone you so that the number appears to be that of a trusted company or government agency.
To prevent this:
Never give out personal data in response to an email or call.
Use a trusted source, such as your bank’s website, to check if the call or email is legitimate.
Skimming is when criminals get your credit card information when you use your credit card to buy something or draw money at an ATM.
To prevent this:
Use cards with chips, which have added protections.
Set email or text alerts that let you know when your credit or other bank cards are used.
Malware or malicious software helps criminals to get hold of your private information.
Malicious software like a keylogger tracks every keystroke, giving criminals access to passwords, account numbers, and more.
To prevent this:
Don’t open emails from suspicious or unfamiliar sources or attachments in these emails, and be careful about websites you visit.
Use a password manager, which lets you skip keying in login credentials.
How to Report Identity Theft
When you realize you have been the victim of identity theft, report it immediately to all relevant parties.
Identitytheft.gov is a one-stop shop for reporting identity theft. It provides a wealth of information on matters related to identity theft.
Start with the site run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and follow its recommended steps for a recovery plan.
The FTC recommends filing an identity theft report with them first so that it can be included when you report it to the police.
The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) has a phone line for identity theft at 800-908-4490, and a taxpayer guide to identity theft on its website.
When to report identity theft to the police
The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you report identity theft to the police when:
You know the identity of the criminal or you have other information that will help the police with their investigation.
An identity thief used your name in an encounter with the police—for example, at a traffic stop.
Creditors, debt collectors, and others affected by the theft will need to see the police report.
Reporting identity theft to all relevant parties protects you as it acts as a declaration of your innocence. It also helps you to start the investigation.
Terms you need to know -
A declaration of innocence is a statement you make to confirm your innocence of a crime you didn’t commit.
It can help you to clear your name and proves that you are not guilty.
Do This To Report ID Theft to the Police
You can report identity theft to the police by following these steps:
Go to your local police office nearest where the theft occurred. Be sure you have the following information:
A copy of your FTC identity theft report.
A government-issued photo ID and proof of your address, such as a home loan statement or utility bill.
Any proof of the theft, including credit card statements, or IRS and collection notices.
Tell the police you want to file a report because your identity has been stolen.
Be sure that the FTC report is included in your submission.
Get a copy of the police report to give to creditors and credit bureaus.
Some tips when filing a police report:
Give the police as much detail as possible, such as when the accounts were opened and who you suspect might be the culprit.
You will need copies of both the police and FTC identity theft reports to help resolve any disputes with companies where the identity thief used your name.
If you are struggling to report the crime, contact your state attorney general’s office or visit the relevant website for more information.
Remember that each state may have a different process for filing a report.
Keep a record of all the information you have about the crime. For example, keep detailed notes about phone conversations and don’t delete related emails.
What Else Can You Do If Your Identity Is Stolen?
Aside from filing identity theft reports with the FTC and the police, also:
Inform the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) about the theft.
You can also place a 90-day fraud alert on credit reports. This will warn creditors, and the risk of someone committing fraud in your name becomes less likely.
Signs Your Identity Has Been Stolen
Here are signs you can look out for to determine if your identity is at risk:
Unexpected changes in your credit score: If your credit score changes unexpectedly, or if you get bills or notifications for loans that you have not applied for.
Criminal record appears for a crime you didn’t commit: When you are constantly denied employment because of something found in a background check, or when police officers detain you for unclear reasons.
Child identity theft: if your children get offers for credit cards, phone calls from debt collectors, reminders about late payments on cards, or accounts they don’t have. Also, watch out for signs that your child’s Social Security number is already in use.
Strange activity on policies: When you notice claims orpayments on your insurance about benefits or consultations you don’t recognize.
Financial notifications: When you receive a letter or notification from your financial institution about a password or email change you don't recognize.
Tax fraud: If you receive notices or letters from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about some activity you knew nothing about. If you can’t do e-filing, it might be that someone has already filed under that Social Security number.
Unauthorized charges on your credit or debit card.
Debts or bills for things you didn’t buy: Receiving calls from debt collectors about debt that’s not yours, or new utility bills in your name.
Locked out of your email or online accounts: If you can’t access your email because your password changed, you may have been hacked.
Passport fraud: If you have lost your passport or believe someone has stolen it. Please report it to the United States Department of State, as this will make the passport useless to the criminal. You will have to apply for a new passport after you have reported it as stolen.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
It’s not always possible to prevent identity theft, and monitoring services only let you know after something has gone wrong. But you can do things to make it much harder for identity thieves.
Freeze your credit
One of the best ways to prevent an identity thief from using your data to open a new account is to freeze your credit with the credit bureaus. This will restrict access, and prevent new credit from being approved in your name.
Guard your Social Security number
Your Social Security number is like a key that opens the door to access all your data. Always keep your card safe, and don’t carry it unless you must.
Don’t share private information on the phone or online
Phone calls that appear to come from government or businesses, and emails that appear to be legitimate may be attempts to steal your information.
Remember that legal companies will not make unsolicited calls asking for your Social Security or bank account numbers, so never share private information when you receive such a call or email.
Use strong passwords and add an authentication step
When you use an ATM or public pay point, cover your fingers when you punch in your code so that those standing behind you cannot see the numbers you enter.
Use passwords and antivirus software to keep Internet hackers from accessing your computer.
Change your passwords often, and don’t reuse them. Using an authenticator app can reduce your risk.
When you log into a secure site, like an online bank account, the authenticator app generates an additional pin code that you must enter along with your normal login details and password.
This code is only valid for about 30-60 seconds, and generates a new code every time you log in.
Sign up for alerts at your financial institutions to get notifications about activity on your accounts.
Shred your documents
Don’t throw out your old credit card, bank, or investment statements with the rest of the garbage. Instead, shred your mail, including junk mail that gives preapproved credit offers.
Use a digital wallet
These are applications that offer secure, digital versions of credit and debit cards, so use a digital wallet to pay online or at stores.
Benefits of Identity Theft Protective Services
With identity theft being such a big problem, is getting identity theft insurance a good thing?
Services such as credit monitoring can alert you to changes in your credit score. So when your credit score drops or a new account appears on your credit report, a credit monitoring service could notify you.
This kind of service can alert you to potential problems you wouldn’t always see on a credit report. For example, credit monitoring will alert you if your information is available on the dark web, a part of the internet that is often used for illegal activities. This will only happen if you have been a victim of identity theft.
This service can help you control damage after the identity theft has occurred and someone used your data to commit fraud in your name.
Identity theft insurance
May cover some of the cost of recovering from ID theft, but it might not cover as much as you would expect.
An identity theft policy, unfortunately, won’t cover the loss if a thief steals money from your bank account.
You should consider an identity theft monitoring service if you are:
At high risk of becoming a victim.
Unwilling to freeze your credit reports.
Don’t have the time to track your credit.
PolicyScout’s Final Verdict on Identity Theft
Identity theft can cause damage to your financial health.
But, there are things you can do to protect your and your family’s identities, and prevent this crime.
Keep an eye on your credit scores, check your bank and other financial statements, and query unusual activities.
This may not prevent ID theft but can help to identify ID fraud early so that you can limit the damage.
Safeguard your passwords, change them often, and be careful with the information you share on social media.
If you discover that you have been a victim of identity theft, it’s essential to immediately report it to:
The Identitytheft.gov site
The credit bureaus.
Terms you need to know -
The Credit Bureau is a data collection agency that collects information from banks and other financial services companies about their clients.
This information is then used to create reports that are shared to help banks decide who is likely to pay back the money the bank lends them.
In other words, this information helps them to decide if you can afford to take on more debt when applying for a loan.
You might consider identity theft insurance if you find it difficult to monitor these things.
Frequently Asked Questions about Identity Theft
Why do people steal other people’s Identities?
There are many reasons why people commit identity fraud. Fraud is not always committed by individuals but by groups, too.
Financial gain is one of the most common reasons for identity fraud, as it allows criminals to use other people’s money and open credit cards in someone else's name.
Revenge can also be the motive behind some ID fraud as the fraudster wants to burden the victim with all the inconvenience and costs that go hand in hand with this kind of fraud.
Hiding another crime might also be the reason why criminals steal others’ identity. The victim may not lose money, but instead their personal information is used to distract authorities and protect the criminal's identity.
What are the warning signs of identity theft?
Get into the habit of watching out for any abnormal activity on your bank accounts, other financial accounts, health care plans, and mobile phone contracts.
When you think your identity has been stolen, report it to the police or visit this website Identitytheft.gov for more information.
Is identity theft insurance worth it?
It's difficult to stop identity fraud, but some ID theft insurance companies can monitor and report any activities.
If you have become a victim of identity theft, they can help you recover. Depending on the type of insurance you choose, it might also cover some of the money you’ve lost because of the theft.
If you can’t monitor your credit or perhaps have been a victim of ID theft, consider getting identity theft insurance. Shop around for a deal that suits your needs and pocket.